Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Battered Woman Syndrome: The Ray Rice Tragedy

Ray Rice is just the latest example of a professional athlete charged with violence or sexual assault on a woman in the last year or so alone. We can add the richest athlete in sports, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who reported has assaulted at least four women, including one that induced 90 days in jail in 2012 and another that is currently suing him for holding a gun to your head, choking her and essentially locking her in their apartment (UT San Diego). There is the Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, who is alleged to have raped a recent graduate in 2012 (Time). There is MMA star War Machine who beat his ex-girlfriend and friend almost to death (Daily Mail). There is the South African double-amputee and Special Olympics (and regular Olympics) star Oscar Pistorius, who will soon realize his fate after fatally shooting his model girlfriend (NY Daily News). If we go back a little further, we can add boxer Mike Tyson, former NFL player Darren Sharper, ex-NBAer “Fast” Eddie Johnson, former skater Mark Rogowski (who raped and murdered a 22-year-old) and a whole host of others.

Why is it athletes are so often implicated in violence against women? Is it the nature of sports? Steroids? The sense of invincibility that financial and competitive success reap? The hyper-masculine world of professional sports in general? Or something else? The sad reality is that these athletes serve as role models to young men inside and outside sports and set an example that only reinforces the male-gaze, misogynistic spectacle they are surrounded by. In the case of Ray Rice, a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, there was an uproar among some after he was only handed a two-game suspension after reports of the beating originally emerged. But the video released by TMZ yesterday forced the hand of both the Ravens and the NFL, and he was essentially “fired” from his job, losing tens of millions in salary in bonuses.

A victory for women? Not exactly, if we consider the rather meager original punishment, the fact that many support these athletes after these allegations are made and the fact that many go on to earn further fame and fortune either after they get off, or out of prison. And the words of his now wife only reinforce the notion that she is one among an endless array of battered women who condone the violence against them. For those who missed it, here is the original tweet on her now private account:

I recently published a story about a heartwarming story from sports; it’s too bad that this is the sort of news so often coming out of the world of sports. Cheating, corruption, greed and violence have become too big a part of sports and one hopes that recent examples like Donald Sterling, Rice and Bruce Levenson deciding to sell the Hawks will serve as a warning to players, coaches and owners that the racism and sexism of the past will no longer be abided in professional sports. Maybe Rice has reformed his ways and his wife is supporting the man he has become, but it is time to stop condoning the horrific behavior of what were once our heroes.

No comments: